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BBB warns of scammers using ‘ransomware’ to hold your files hostage

Posted at 7:05 AM, Jul 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-15 07:05:37-04

RICHMOND, Va -- The Better Business Bureau is warning about a scam involving a new kind of computer virus.

They call it 'ransomware.' A victim's computer receives a computer virus, but instead of corrupting the computer's data, it encrypts it. The computer then freezes and requests a passkey.

Moments later, the scammer calls and demands money in exchange for the key to unlock the computer. The malware, in effect, holds the victim's files hostage.

The BBB says it's often not possible to unlock the files without the encryption key -- but paying the scammers is never a guarantee that they'll actually provide it. An an

Some victims have paid up to $10,000.

Antivirus scan may sometimes help unlock the malware, in some cases.

Apart from being careful about opening attachments, there are several other recommendations from the BBB to avoid being a victim of ransomware. They include:

  • Using antivirus software and a firewall
  • Updating software, including Internet browsers
  • Backing up files to a storage device that's separate from your computer
  • Keeping pop-up blockers active